1 9 9 4 – 1 9 9 7 (UK)
Harry Enfield had dominated the sketch comedy genre for several years. Paul Whitehouse had written and performed in many of Enfield’s shows and stockpiled a few sketches that were little more than a single punchline.
Whereas a standard sketch show might contain nine or ten scenes, The Fast Show would churn out almost thirty per episode, some as short as 10 seconds long, few longer than three minutes.
The show introduced a slew of recurring characters that were defined by their catchphrases: a woman interrupted dramatic scenes to ask, “does my bum look big in this?”; a teenager rambled through various locations declaring everything “brilliant!”; a pair of gentleman’s outfitters fawned over their customer, suggestively saying “suit you, sir”; a weather reporter from an undefined country declared everywhere in the region would be “Scorchio!”
These catchphrases became part of the language of the 1990s in ways that were baffling to outsiders. Fans would tell their friends about a night out that left them “very, very drunk” or follow up news of spectacularly good fortune with “…which was nice”.
The major players over the show’s three-year run were: music hall comedian Arthur Atkinson (“how queer”), often introduced by fellow veteran Tommy Cockles; Lord of the manor Ralph, who had a crush on his Irish estate worker, Ted; romantic car salesman Swiss Toni; rambling toff Rowley Birkin QC (“I was very, very drunk”); Unlucky Alf (“oh bugger!”); diet and fashion conscious Jesse (“this week I shall be mostly eating . . .”); Colin Hunt, the office nerd; TV pundit Ron Manager (allegedly based on former Luton boss Alec Stock); the Oz-TV presenters of That’s Amazing; Sir Geoffrey Norman, a deny-everything Tory MP; Louis Balfour, host of Jazz Club (“Nice!”), hen-pecked Roy and his wife, Renee (“What did I say, Roy?”); the caddish 13th Duke of Wymborne, usually to be found in a schoolgirl dormitory; cop/doctor Monkfish; Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior; deaf stuntman Chip Cobb; Cockney Chris the would-be thief (“I’m a geezer, a little bit whooor, a little bit waaaay”); middle-class liar Patrick Nice (“which was nice”); and Archie, the intrusive pub codger who’s done everything (“hardest game in the world”).
The series spawned spin-offs, including one for car salesman Swiss Toni (“selling a car is like making love to a beautiful woman”) and another that focused on the uncomfortable relationship between bumbling aristocrat Ralph and his elderly groundsman, Ted.